Pairings: None for now
Summary: But when one looks back on their life, at the path they took and the decisions they made, it is as if no time passed at all. Just like that, their most precious thing – their entire life – done in a passing moment. And that is what all lives – past, present, future – have in common. Speed.
Disclaimer: Young Avengers obviously not mine. Heavy OC introductions though.
Notes: So, been mulling over this for half a year and finally got around to finishing the first part. Basically, I just want to fill in the holes of Tommy's life with my headcanons...
All roads, all tracks follow a different course. No two lives curve the same way or take the same dip. Some are roller coasters, going up, down, upside down, then back around. Others take a simple path, like winding countryside roads.
But when one looks back on their life, at the path they took and the decisions they made, it is as if no time passed at all. Just like that, their most precious thing – their entire life – done in a passing moment. And that is what all lives – past, present, future – have in common.
Thomas Shepherd's earliest memories held a smiling, nameless face and joy. As a child he always thought those memories were an escape from reality—fanciful dreams he created when he grew older. Even now, knowing what they were, he still thought of them as fantasies.
He had never understood why his family was different from everyone else's. He couldn't understand why his day care teachers paid him extra attention or gave him cookies when he was the last to be picked up. He wondered why his father was never around, never played catch with him or took him to sports games like other fathers did. He thought it was strange other kids' mothers didn't spend the night drinking.
Making friends was difficult. Parents either thought he was a bad influence or tried to bring him under their wing and take care of him; when he had the luck of that happening, his mother would appear on the scene and cuss out Tommy's chance of an escape and forbade him of ever returning. He eventually stopped going over to friends' houses, but couldn't bring them to his house. So he stopped making friends.
Tommy was that kid in elementary. The kid that came to school with red eyes and smelled of cigarette smoke and alcohol. The kid that put on a smile and made a joke of any and everything, even himself, just for a shred of attention. The kid that was constantly surrounded by people, always with one group or another, but never fit in, never belonged.
He learned to run from his mother. Her drunken stupor grew violent whenever his father stayed at the house longer than a week. Just once she got her hands on him. Just once he went to school with bruises and scrapes, a swollen eye. From then on he knew to leave the house, no matter the time, and just run.
No one ever chased him. His running never held any urgency; it was his escape. The way his bare feet hit the pavement in a rhythmic beat that vibrated through his whole body. The way his heart sent throbs through his whole body, pounded in his ears and made each vessel pulse with life. The way his hair billowed in the wind, caressed his face and neck in a way he never knew possible. It was his escape; he could let himself go and for once feel alive.
Endurance. Stamina. He eventually could lose himself for hours, just running until he eventually returned home and collapsed on his bed. As he left elementary and entered middle school - where he was buried among hundreds of other problem students and teachers didn't take the time to learn about his poor family life – simply running out of class became a frequent occurrence as well.
He ran so much he wasn't sure when his powers really manifested. It could have been days… Weeks…
The pavement flew beneath his feet, the marks on the road zipped by until they made a solid line. Tommy did not pay attention, he never paid attention. No one ever blocked his path and he knew the movements to follow his route well enough to run blindfolded. He never needed to pay attention. He just let the day's events play through his mind until they didn't matter anymore…
Having multiple teachers was rough. Some were nice and realized he wanted to do better in school, just didn't know how to… Others lumped him in with the kids that got in fights and enjoyed giving teachers trouble in class. His English teacher was the worst. He always, always, used anything Tommy turned in as an example for what not to do! It was infuriating and-
Tommy blinked and shifted into the present, out of his thoughts. His feet felt hot and uncomfortable- And why were the trees going by so fast?
"Holy crap!" He yelped, abruptly coming to a stop without thinking; only to get jerked forward by his momentum and was sent flying in a tumbling mess across the entire length of the park's sidewalk until it curved, which led him straight into a tree trunk.
Dazed, bruised, and thoroughly confused, Tommy lay in the grass staring at the sky until the dots in his vision faded. How had he been going so fast? And- "Oh shit."
Tommy jerked up, teetered slightly as the world spun, then pulled a foot into his lap to inspect it. A hole. A giant gaping hole in the bottom of his shoe. Just glancing at his other foot told him it was the state of both shoes. How was that even possible? He had to see if he could do it again.
Back on his feet, sore and shaky, Tommy shrugged off the pain and took a runner's stance. He hesitated before pushing off. This was going to be so stupid when nothing happened! Sighing, Tommy shrugged to himself. Worst thing that could happen would be him looking like an idiot. So without another thought, he pushed off the ground.
And the world whizzed past him. His legs seemed to move on their own accord; as if they had a mind of their own they moved at a pace that should have been impossible. Within a mere second he was out of the park and running through the street. The pavement was hot and there were cars. Tommy gasped and wanted to go around the incoming car, but was too terrified to take control of his legs again. Then they moved on their own. He ran past the cars, between the two lanes of traffic, and left them in the dust.
Everything melted away before he could even blink. The world became a mass of colors and blurs. He was escaping reality… Elation filled Tommy and bubbled into a loud whoop and a holler as he threw his fist into the air. He was flying! Nothing could stop him now!
His feet brought him back to the park and slowed down until he could walk, once again in the world of the mortals. Gasping for air and drenched in sweet sweat, Tommy collapsed underneath the tree that had brought him to a painful halt mere seconds ago. Damn that was awesome.
Every waking moment became an adventure. Tommy would spend the night perfecting moving short distances smoothly. He applied his hard work in class, constantly running around the classroom and bothering people, all while returning to his seat frequently enough that it appeared he was sitting there the entire time. Although, his reaction time was still having trouble keeping up with everything else. Countless times he found himself slamming into walls and doors before he realized they were even there.
So he practiced with a determination he could never muster for anything but running. He made himself slow down and run about crowded places, dodging people and cars. Though, every once and a while, he took a wrong step or spaced out for a split second and would be sent flying into random people at high speed.
He had been lucky, only bumping into regular sized people and, for the most part, catching himself before it became too much of a painful impact. Tommy knew, as his whole body came to an abrupt halt against the equivalent of a brick wall, he had gotten cocky from his luck.
The muscled giant, that had walked out of a store just as Tommy's mind started to wander, looked down at the silver haired boy dumbly. "Uh- Are you okay, kid?" He asked, dazed and thoroughly confused as to where the child had come from at such a speed.
"Wow, way to go," a woman walked out next to them and stared down at Tommy as he struggled to make sense of up and down. "I wouldn't be surprised if you gave the kid a concussion from your fat."
"It's muscle. And he ran into me. Came out of nowhere."
"Sure, like you could not have reacted in time to stop him from running into you face first." She rolled her eyes and squat down, poking Tommy's forehead. "Hey, kid, your mom around here somewhere or something? You should not be on your own when it is so busy like this. You are going to loose her."
Tommy blinked and shook his head, clearing his jumbled thoughts. He snorted and jumped to his feet. "Yeah, sure, totally need to go find my mom and stuff. Watch where you're going, fat dude." Without a second glance at the strangers, Tommy took off again.
"Hey, kid, you dropped your backpack-" the woman stood and turned after Tommy, his bag in hand, but there wasn't a trace of the fallen kid. "Damn, he is fast."
"Cal, who was that?" A third man walked out of the store, hands in his pockets and a cheery smile lighting his eyes.
"A Thomas Shepherd?" She read from a notebook in Tommy's backpack. "Goes to the middle school near us, actually. Is this-?"
"Hmmm, Thomas Shepherd. Thomas. Tommy, probably. I like the sound of that. Yes, I do think he is what I was looking for today. Let's see if we can get a hold of this Thomas Shepherd."
Getting called to the office was a common occurrence. If he wasn't called down to the office at least once every two days, it was because he skipped school. But, never had he ever been called to the office to find someone waiting for him. Tommy walked up to the front desk and made himself comfortable on the rolly chair next to the receptionist, Mrs. Winters, as he always did when called to the office (they were very good friends), but she looked up in confusion.
"Tommy, what are you doing?"
That was new. Tommy cocked his head and kicked his legs in the air. "Waiting for whoever I pissed off this time to talk to me, as always?"
Mrs. Winters laughed and ruffled his hair. "Sweetie, did you forget your aunt was picking you up today? Isn't it sweet of her to check you out early so you can go shopping for your uncle's birthday party?"
"I think you got the wrong Tommy, Mrs. Winters, I don't got a-"
"I am hurt, kid," a vaguely familiar voice called from across the room. A tan woman with long black hair got to her feet with a smirk. "I am not your aunt anymore? I know you are mad at me, but that is just cold!"
Tommy stared blankly at the woman, jaw dropping as he recognized her as the chick with the dude that he ran into the other day. What was she doing here, pretending to be his aunt?
"Now, now, don't be ungrateful, Tommy!" Mrs. Winter laughed and pushed Tommy to his feet. "Go have fun with your aunt, okay?"
"Um…" Tommy looked from Mrs. Winters to the stranger, then shrugged and walked over to his 'aunt.' Curiosity won over stranger danger, especially when one had super speed.
"See ya Miss W," he called with a cheery wave as he walked out of the school. "So I'm guessing you're my mom's older sister?"
The woman rolled her eyes and led them up with a white service van. "Real cute, brat, just get in."
"All you need is the free candy shadily written on the side," Tommy snorted, climbing into the back of the van without a care. He surveyed it curiously. It was rather cozy for the back of a van, almost how he would imagine a stakeout van for the FBI or something. There were computers and various electronic machines along one wall. An old couch took up the back of the space. There was even a minifridge.
"All you need is a brain," she muttered, shutting the doors behind her. She rapped on the metal dividing them from the driver and they started moving.
"Who needs one of those things?" Tommy cackled and plopped down next to her on the musty old couch. "So you got me out of school, who are you? Are you going to sell me into slavery now or something? Or are you my real mom and you're kidnapping me? Or are you a messenger for an elite assassin group that I really belong to and you're taking me to them? Or-"
"You can call me Cal. How about you shut up? I am not answering any of your questions." She shoved him off the couch and swung her legs up to occupy the empty space. "I was just told to get you, never told to be nice to a stupid kid."
"I'm not a kid!" Tommy yelled, jumping his feet. "I'm eleven, thank you very much."
"Shut up or I will knock you out to have a peaceful drive," Cal growled.
Tommy sighed and sat against an empty space. "This isn't nearly as fun as I was hoping it would be."
The trip did not take as long as Tommy expected. Barely ten minutes in, the van lurched to a stop and the door swung open. A small Hispanic woman stood at the opening, smiling brightly at them.
"I told Luke it was a bad idea to send you to pick up the boy, but you have surprised me, Cal!" She giggled and held her hand out to Tommy to help him out. Her light accent gave her voice a melodic sound; it made Tommy immediately like her. "I was certain you would kill him."
"I do have self restraint," Cal muttered, pushing past Tommy to take her assisting hand. "And what did I say about names? You just compromised Skywalker."
She rolled her eyes and held her hand out to Tommy again. "He's just a boy, Cal. Nice to meet you, Thomas. I'm Maria."
Cal groaned and left them, grumbling under her breath.
Tommy snickered and shook Maria's hand. "You're nicer than her. What's going on, anyways?"
Maria smiled and beckoned him to follow her. "I'm bringing you to Luke. Don't worry, sweetie, he'll explain everything for you."
Around the van, a suburban house met Tommy. He scrunched his brows together and looked around, realizing they were in the neighborhood several blocks from the school. What kind of kidnappers made their headquarters in a neighborhood? Especially in a house with window planters.
Maria led him through the house to a small room at the back with a couch, computer desk, and bookshelves lining the walls. Odder yet, what kind of kidnappers had their own personal library?
Seated in the couch with one of the books was a man Tommy could only assume was this 'Luke' Maria spoke about. He was average looking. Not too muscular, nor extremely bony. His hair was gelled up haphazardly, something that Tommy admired. Anyone who did his hair messy was good in his book. When Luke looked up upon their entering, his almond eyes crinkled with his wide smile and he set aside the book he was reading.
"Great! Thank you, Maria! You can leave him; we'll be fine on our own. Thomas—Tommy?—have a seat!"
"Tommy," he said, sitting on the couch hesitantly. "How do you guys know who I am?"
"Dropped this the other day," Luke said, holding out Tommy's backpack.
Gasping, Tommy snatched it back and went through the contents. Satisfied everything was in place, he looked up with a scowl. "Thieves! I actually did some homework and my teacher didn't believe me when I said I lost my backpack!"
"My apologies!" Luke laughed and ruffled Tommy's hair. "You're the one that ran into my friend, then took off."
Tommy stared at the man blankly. "Do you want something for it or something?"
"What? No, no, I actually wanted to get to know you and make a business proposal."
As Tommy continued to stare at him skeptically, Luke's smile just grew. "Of course, you're suspicious. What can I do to help that? Hm- Oh yes, how are those powers working out?"
In a blink, Tommy was across the room, ready to run out the door, with horrified eyes. "How do you know that? I haven't told anyone! What do you want from me!"
"Woah, woah," Luke slowly got to his feet and held his hands up defensively. "Calm down, Tommy. I know, because I'm like you. We're all like you."
"What?" Tommy zipped up in front of Luke and stared at him. "There are others like me? Really? I'm not the only one?"
"Of course not! Tommy, do you even realize what you are?"
"I thought I was just a freak… Or maybe I fell into some radioactive shit without realizing it. Or maybe I'm a test tube baby. Or what if someone has secretively been experimenting on my in my sleep. Or that maybe I'm a wizard."
Luke laughed and placed his hands on Tommy's shoulders. "You're a mutant, like the X-Men. Like me."
Tommy dropped back onto the couch. That made so much more sense than being a wizard. He tried all that wingardium leviosa crap and had a feeling a stick wouldn't help him much with make it work. "No way. That- Woah. Mutant. Cool…" He looked up and cocked his head. "Are you an X-Men?"
"Ha, sorry kid. We're not quite the same playing field."
"Oh… So… How did you know I have super speed? That I'm a… mutant?"
"I just know things that will happen." Luke grinned and tapped his temple with a wink.
Tommy jumped to his feet again. Sometimes, when he got really excited, he could feel himself starting to vibrate. This was one of those times, which only made him more excited. "No way, you can see the future? That's so cool! So you saw us having this talk. Awesome! What's going to happen tomorrow? What- Wait. What am I doing here?"
Holding back chuckles, Luke pulled Tommy back into his seat. "Well, I may not be an X-men, but I'm a mutant. So are Cal and Maria. There are two more in my group that are mutants as well. We have something important to do in this town. We could use you. In fact, we need you, Tommy."
"Do we really?"
Tommy jumped and looked over his shoulder to see Cal standing by the door. How long had she been there? He looked back at Luke and sunk into the couch at the sight of his cold stare.
"Yes, we do, Ca-"
"Say it and see what happens." Cal cross the room and sat on the arm of the couch, grabbing the front of Luke's shirt with a scowl. "Do we need him or does he need us? There is a difference, Skywalker, even if you try to fool yourself into thinking there is not."
Luke made no move to push Cal off him and continued to stare at her in an icy calmness. "There isn't a difference. It's a symbiotic relationship, as it has been with all of you. This is my decision, you can't fight me on this one."
Cal pulled him closer and hissed, "This is my life. I will fight you on this one. I do not care what feelings you are picking up from this kid, I do not trust him."
"Don't trust him then, but it's still my decision."
Well this was getting ridiculous. Tommy still had no idea what he was doing here, what these people wanted from him, and they were fighting over whether he should stay or not. Didn't his say have any importance? What if he didn't want to stick around? Well, Luke was psychic so he probably already knew the answer... Which was a yes because anything was more exciting than his current life. But still, they shouldn't ignore him. He sucked in a deep breath for courage.
"Hello!" Tommy yelled, standing in front of the tense adults. "I am still here! You can trust me! Just ask me whatever you want bitch-lady, I'll prove to you I'm cool! But I like this guy and that other chick and I want to help and I don't care what you think!"
Luke smirked and pulled Cal's hands off of his shirt. "You deserved it, but you heard Tommy. Ask him what you want."
Cal shot another glare at Luke, and then stared at Tommy's determined pose. She rolled her eyes and leaned down so they were eye to eye. "Have you ever stolen anything?"
Tommy gasped, taken aback by the question, and looked to Luke for support. The man shrugged and beckoned for Tommy to answer. With a sigh, Tommy looked back to Cal shyly and pointed at his shoes. "I ran through my last shoes, so I took these, but I felt bad and took some of my mom's cash and left it in the store the next day…"
"Are you close to anyone?"
"My parents hate me and no one in school likes me," Tommy spat, regaining his confidence.
"Do you hate your parents?"
"I-I don't know…"
"What kind of bleach do you use for your hair."
"Your face is bull, lady."
Luke snorted, but quickly covered his mouth when Cal turned to glare at him.
"Have you ever killed anyone, kid?"
Tommy froze. "W-what?"
"You heard me. Ever killed anyone?"
"N-no…" Tommy muttered, staring at his feet.
"Your hesitation makes me doubt that."
"I haven't!" He yelled, with a fierce glare. He took a deep breath, convincing himself more than her. "I never will!"
Cal assessed him, and looked to Luke as she straightened. "I will not trust him. If I must, I will tolerate him." With that, she left the room.
Tommy bit his lip and clenched his fists. What was that attack about? Was she a psychic too? What was so wrong with him that she couldn't like him? He wasn't that bad. Luke seemed to like him well enough, at least.
"Don't worry about her," Luke said. He grabbed Tommy's hand and pulled him into a crushing hug. "You're going to fit in here, Tommy. I know how scary it can be, having powers without anyone to understand. We can help you hone your skills and find new uses for them. You aren't going to be alone anymore."
Tommy squirmed for a moment, but slowly leaned into the embrace. It felt nice, being held… Not alone, huh? It almost sounded real.
"Now I bet you're brimming with questions."
Luke ended their embrace, but kept an arm around Tommy's shoulder. "And there is a lot to tell," he continued. "You say you want to help us, but I haven't even explained what it is we do. It's okay," he quickly reassured to Tommy's panicked expression. "I like that about you. You judged us and decided we were worth your help. Shows good judgment and trust in your own decision making. I need a man that can think quick. You need to think quick to survive. Especially you.
Do you know the story of Robin Hood? Of course you do, everyone admires what he stands for. You could say we're like him. We're all mutants. All of us were kicked out of our homes or ostracized to the point of running away. We don't want others to suffer what we did. So we hunt down anti-mutant organizations and companies and steal from them. It seems petty, but we hit them where it hurts and help support our fellow mutants with the money-"
"That's so cool!" Tommy yelled, pulled away from Luke's hold as he waved his arms around excitedly. "You guys are Robin Hoods! This is so cool! Cool stuff never happens to me. Well unless you count this-" He flickered from view and reappeared behind Luke. "And I guess I probably should, but still this is the second coolest thing to ever happen to me! When do we start? Who are you stealing from? Why are you guys all set up in some house and looking for me?"
"Maybe you should let me finish speaking."
Tommy shrunk back and hung his head. "Sorry," he mumbled, hiding behind his shaggy bangs.
Luke laughed and pulled Tommy into another embrace. "No, I must apologize. You're excited and young, I forgot. I will explain everything in due time, but we have someone for you to meet right now. Sean, I know you're here."
"Don't call me that! Cal didn't want names given away!"
Wait when was there someone else in the room? Tommy turned to the source of the voice on the couch and—he would deny it to the ends of the earth—let out an ungainly yelp of surprised, stumbling backwards. The boy sitting on the couch stared at him without a trace a smirk, of which Tommy could be grateful for, but he didn't seem to have a trace of anything on his face. It was rather creepy how blank his dark eyes were. But, when did he come in?
At the same time as Cal, his brain said quietly. For some reason, Tommy remembered seeing the boy, but he never saw him sitting there till now. How could he remember something that didn't happen? That didn't make any sense at all. What if this guy was some kind of mind controller and was messing with Tommy's thoughts? What if he was reading his mind right now!
"Woah, Tommy, you need to stop thinking so loud. Your head might explode." Luke chuckled when Tommy's scrunched brows rose as high as they could, his head whipping to stare at Luke in utter surprise. "We can see the wheels turning in your head. Sean-"
"Void. Stop compromising me."
Luke just rolled his eyes and continued. "Sean has the ability to omit himself from everyone's attention. He's essentially invisible until he wants to be seen, and then you fill in the blanks where he was."
"Next you'll explain to him the weaknesses of my powers and how to exploit them." Sean crossed his arms, his voice stern and disapproving… but his face was still eerily empty. It sent chills down Tommy's spine.
"Come now, is that any way to treat a new member? Where are your manners, Sean?"
He rolled his eyes and slowly untangled his long limbs to stand in front of Tommy. Sean was tall, freakishly tall, making his ability to disappear from everyone's attention a mockery to reality. Tommy refused to back down as the older boy approached him. His irises were so dark that they blended with his pupils. But it wasn't possible for someone to have black eyes, right? Everything about Sean was dark, and as the edges of his figure started to blur with his surroundings, Tommy suspected it helped him disappear.
Sean leaned down to judge Tommy's reactions. Determined to pass whatever test this was, Tommy bit the inside of his lip and glared back at those blank eyes. When Sean continued to stare, saying absolutely nothing and no hints of an expression, Tommy growled in frustration and pushed the taller boy away from him. "Quit being so weird! Either say something or leave me alone!"
"He's impatient and immature," Sean said, turning to Luke. Tommy huffed and crossed his arms. He probably just failed that test. Well, at least Sean said something, so he technically won.
"But useful." Luke's smile didn't loose any of its cheer. Tommy wondered if he stole Sean's smile.
Sean snorted in disgust and shook his head. "We don't need him. I stand by Cal's argument. There are enough of us as it is, we don't need some kid struggling to understand his powers in the mix."
Woah, hold the horses. Tommy glared at the back of Sean's head. He could take verbal abuse on a lot of things, but he was not struggling to understand his powers! He understood them perfectly and was really good at running! Tommy smirked as an idea popped into his head. Well, if this jerkwad wanted him to be useful, Tommy could show him how useful he could be. Without a second thought, Tommy darted from the room to search the house for the nice lady, Maria?
Easily enough, he found her in the living room, contently watching television with a big buff guy Tommy recognized as the wall he ran into the other day. Okay, so things made a lot more sense now. But he had to be quick. He plopped down next to Maria, who gasped and exclaimed something in Spanish, but didn't give her a chance to question his presence.
"Tommy please slow down, I can hardly understand you!" Maria exclaimed, placing a gentle hand on his arm as if that could slow his speech.
Tommy sighed and forced himself to take it down a notch without complete sentences. "Sean. Want to impress him. What's something he really likes?"
Maria pulled her hand back to start to tap her lips in contemplative thought, taking way too long for Tommy's liking.
"First thing that comes to mind, now!" He exclaimed.
"Oranges," the big guy said from across the room.
Tommy grinned to him appreciatively and dashed out the house. Where could he find oranges? Oranges were in Florida, right? Which way was Florida? Disney World was in Florida! He ran there a couple of weeks ago! There were some oranges near there, he ran past them! Goal in mind, Tommy took off down the street at his top speed.
While he had to force himself to practice going around people and things for short distances, he freed himself running long distance. He loved practicing long distances. He would do it all the time if it didn't make him so tired. Hopefully, though, with more practice he could run to places like Florida in under a minute without crashing for the rest of the day.
Once in the orange grove, Tommy refused to slow down. It would be more impressive the faster he was. He snatched a burlap bag near a truck and stuffed as many oranges as he could into it before slinging it over his shoulder and racing off again.
"What good is a slow speedster?" Tommy heard as he bounded back into Luke's study. Cackling triumphantly, Tommy leaped onto the couch and poured his bag of oranges on Sean's head.
"Who's slow now, bitch?" He yelled, letting his legs buckle beneath him to crash on the couch. There were little spots in his eyes and he was breathing heavy, but he felt fantastic. His elation only grew at the smallest spark of surprised in Sean's eyes as he turned to Tommy. He managed to make robo-mutant have some kind of emotion? So worth it.
Sean picked up an orange and stared at it, the shock disappearing as soon as it appeared. He looked to Luke, who was doubled over in laughter, then back to the panting Tommy. "What good is a speedster that gets out of breath from getting oranges?"
"I'm thoroughly impressed," Luke chimed, picking up the bag Tommy dropped. "He got you fresh Florida oranges, Sean! You should thank him."
"Wow that was fast!" Maria stood in the doorway with the buff guy, who was smiling like a kid on Christmas morning.
"Can we keep him?" Big guy asked with a playful grin.
Grumbling something under his breath, Sean snatched the bag from Luke and gathered the oranges. He glanced at Tommy, then shrugged and left the room. Pleased he passed whatever test Sean was using to judge him, Tommy smiled and collapsed into the soft couch, his heart still racing. "Man I need a nap now."